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4.26  ·  Rating details ·  82,078 ratings  ·  9,607 reviews
Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exil
Hardcover, 489 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Grand Central Publishing
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Deborah I think the game of Pachinko represented life for the Koreans in Japan. There was always the hope that they would have good luck--but, as with the…moreI think the game of Pachinko represented life for the Koreans in Japan. There was always the hope that they would have good luck--but, as with the pachinko machines in the novel, someone was always making little adjustments to make sure that they never won. (less)
Priyamvada Because somehow the game of Pachinko and the story of Sunja are correlated. The idea may not occur while reading the book, but once you have finished…moreBecause somehow the game of Pachinko and the story of Sunja are correlated. The idea may not occur while reading the book, but once you have finished it, you'd realise how similar the blueprint of Sunja's life had been to that of the game. Now, Pachinko, as a rule, is not entirely a game of chance - it requires technique and observation (Ofc, that matters only when you've got some luck in your pocket). Sunja's trysts with Hansu were a result of her chance encounter with the bullys. Osaka had been a dream to her, which eventually became the birthplace of her nightmares. Her survival during the war, the changes in the life of her sons, and her relations could all be attributed to chance, yet not entirely - exactly like Pachinko.
Moreover, as a game banned during the world war II, Pachinko thrived and flourished in Japan after it's nadir. But it was largely associated to the rise of Yakuza or Japanese mafia. Since the game was never considered equivalent to gambling, the parlors became a mecca for criminal activities, prostitution and unpaid taxes. All in all, it could hardly be considered a decent job during the time. However, it could put more than food on people's palates, and was the only field where the Koreans could associate with the Japanese on an equal footing. Undoubtedly, such parlors became a haven for the war-torn Koreans, who had lost seemingly everything. And as long as one had riches, what did it matter if the job weren't decent? But the then Japan held many prejudices against those parlors and the Koreans. Lee has brought out the fact that all of them weren't bees of the same hive sticking to criminal activities. Had it not been for Pachinko, Sunja's sons would have never survived. Even the righteous Noa was compelled to take it up as his means of livelihood. And as the author has related, "history had failed them" so they had to detach themselves from history's favoritisms. In the end, Sunja and the people related to her couldn't be called fortunate though they did turn out to be so more than most of the Koreans. What do you call such a life with huge losses that can neither outshine your gains nor underwhelm their importance? Gambling. Perhaps, Pachinko.

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Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017, botm
Alright, after thinking about this one for the last 24 hours or so, I think I've figured out how to articulate what I didn't like about it.

But first I want to start with the stuff I did really enjoy. The book taught me a lot about the dynamic between Koreans & Japanese, especially in the early to mid-20th century. I had no idea about any of the historical context within which this book was set. And I found learning about it, especially as the author traced these themes and historical element
Emily May
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
History has failed us, but no matter.

Look, I get it. A lot of people won't be interested in this book because they have no idea what pachinko means and what exactly is going on with that cover, anyway? We are highly susceptible to marketing techniques and the cover and title give us pretty much nothing. But hear me out for a minute because this book is really good.

This is a historical family saga set in Korea and Japan throughout the 20th century. It follows four generations of a Korean family
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a marvelous, deeply engrossing novel about four generations of a Korean family in Japan. There was a lot of story here and a lot of history (of which I was woefully ignorant) and it is all rendered in impeccable prose with a touch of steeliness. Toward the end of the novel, things started to feel a bit rushed, not enough time with the characters. And certain folks just fell away but such is the nature of a sprawling multi-generational novel. I read this in one day because I simply could not ...more
Elyse Walters
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable lengthy historical fiction! *A Jewel*!!!!!

Some days Sunja, daughter of the owner of a boardinghouse in Korea, felt chills when she was growing her secret child. If she had agreed to remain the mistress of the rich man in Japan whom she got pregnant with - who was married with 3 children -- she could have been taken care of - and the needs for her child would be met. However - Sunja couldn't agree to the arrangement. She couldn't imagine sharing her life with a man who has anothe
Angela M
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the things I like about reading well written historical fiction is that it can take me to another time and place and can be a profound learning experience. I knew close to nothing about the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 through WWII. Last year I read Tiger Pelt which introduced me to this time in Korea which was horrific in so many ways for the Koreans. While this novel begins in a village in Korea, most of the story takes place in various places in Japan, but this is a Korean st ...more
One of the most brilliant and heartbreaking books I have ever read, I would like to thank Min Jin Lee for writing Pachinko and starting my 2018 with this splendid saga. Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family who move to Japan amidst Japanese colonization and political warfare. The novel starts with Sunja, the beloved daughter of a poor yet well-respected family, whose unplanned pregnancy has the potential to bring great shame upon her life. After she learns that the baby's father a ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
Despite this being a 480 pg mini brick of a book, I absolutely flew through Pachinko on two commutes and a night. It's a sweeping, multi-generational epic of a Korean family, and we follow their collective and individual rises and falls, triumphs and failures, in 19010 - 1930 in Korea under Japanese occupation, and in Japan from 1930 - 1989 as expatriates and Zainichi Koreans. The characters are memorable, well-drawn, and their circumstances and hurdles extremely compelling, from family shame of ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Just having finished this behemoth in the last hour, I want to put a disclaimer first. That reading this over a longer period of time than I would usually read a book, even of this length, probably made me MORE analytic than for my usual review. Or reaction. More critical. Because I truly wanted to give it a higher star value. I really did! But I cannot. So don't be scared away from reading it, because I am specific or amused for some of the tangents she took. Take it with a grain of salt. Espec ...more
Barry Pierce
In the sweeping and monolithic Pachinko, Min Jin Lee documents four generations of a Korean family in Japan from 1910 to 1989. First conceived in 1989, Lee worked on this novel for over 25 years and what a masterpiece she has to show for all her work. Only really comparable in scope to Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle, Pachinko is an education as well as a flawlessly crafted story. It theorises on an ugly aspect of Japanese society and the people who struggle against this open prejudice.

What I know
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
"… there could only be a few winners and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones. How could you get angry at the ones who wanted to be in the game?... Pachinko was a foolish game, but life was not."

I hadn’t really understood exactly what pachinko was before reading this novel. This book and Wikipedia have educated me on the topic. The way I envision pachinko is as a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine. It’s a gambling game, where
Rating 3.75

I had gone back and forth on reading this one. I would get it from the library and return it. But it was a National Book Award finalist, so it should be good. My library got the audio and I had to wait months to get it, so it should be good. It's historical fiction and I love that, so it should be good. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but I had many issues with it.

Pachinko tells the story of several generations of one Korean family. You first start out, learning about this family and
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
We are deemed to be the directors of our lives and its consequences. Truth be told, we then become the receptors marked by the shadows of others upon us.....given and taken away.

Min Jin Lee begins her story in 1910 in Yeongdo, Busan, Korea with Hoonie, plagued by physical impairments, and his wife who live in a small fishing village. These are the first stones in this multigenerational family mosaic. After many miscarriages and infant deaths, they are overjoyed at the birth of a healthy daughter
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs

I had this in my TBR queue for ages. It took making it a book club selection to bring it to the front of the line. It’s described as an epic tale of generations of Koreans in Japan and epic truly describes it. I felt like I was reading one of James Michener’s sagas.

I loved Sunja. She is just so strong. She’s not only part of the underclass, but a woman to boot. She struggles but always finds a way to persevere.

There is nothing better than a well done historical fiction. This one fits the bill.
David Yoon
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Told in chronological order, this book spans 4 generations and nearly a century of time and focuses on Zainichi or ethnic Koreans living in Japan. These Zainichi are essentially stateless citizens registered to Joseon or a unified Korea that hasn’t existed since the Korean War. Up until recently they had to apply for alien registration cards that required fingerprinting every three years and were rarely granted passports making overseas travel impossible. In Japan, ethnic Koreans are seen as sec ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, netgalley, 2016, japan, korea

3.5 Stars rounded up

Pachinko is a sweeping family saga listed as being for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone.

Following one Korean family through the years from Yeongdo, Busan, Korea where a poor fisherman and his wife give birth to a young infant boy. Hoonie, their only child of four to survive, was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot, in addition to a pleasant temperament and broad shoulders.

The year Hoonie turns 27, 1910, Japan annexed Korea. His par
I don’t know about you, but I *adore* reading books with titles that I don’t quite understand. I remember when I was reading It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover, the title didn’t exactly make sense to me, UNTIL I finally read the part where it is contextualized and it made me feel so good. I had a similar reaction when I understood this author’s title choice – Pachinko – but with less crying involved. I went like, ‘‘Ohhh, I see!’’ and looked at the story with eyes even more open than before it see ...more
da AL
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could, I'd give this audiobook 10 stars for writing & audio narration. The author is masterful at teaching us history, examing motives with a generous heart, and letting us think for ourselves. The audio narrator is amazing too.
Jennifer Blankfein
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pachinko is just the kind of book I love. It starts in Korea in the early 1900s with Hoonie, a young man with a cleft palate and a twisted foot. Despite his deformities he marries and his wife gives birth to a daughter, Sunja. When Sunja is a young teenager she makes some bad choices and ends up pregnant. The man who is to be the father is already married, and Sunja is ashamed of her mistake; but proud and determined she refuses to be his mistress. A single, kind pastor, sickly as a child and un ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018, modern-lit
This epic story following a family of Koreans from 1910 to 1989 is a surprisingly easy read for such a long book. The language is deceptively simple apart from the borrowed Korean and Japanese words for which a glossary might have been helpful, as in most cases they are not explained.

The story starts on the small island of Yeongdo near the Korean port city of Busan in 1910, the year Japan annexed Korea. This is where its central character Sunja is born to a couple who run a small boarding house
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
I really enjoyed this saga of a Korean family from the 1930's to 1989. The story centers around Sunja, who is a teenager in Korea in the early 30's. Her father has died and she and her mother run a boarding house, earning money by taking in lodgers. Sunja is seduced by a mysterious businessman who lives in Japan and becomes pregnant by him. The businessman cannot marry Sunja and she makes a marriage of convenience to a Korean Christian minister who takes her to Japan, where she lives the remaind ...more
Although some of the central events of the novel, like World War II and the atomic bomb drop at Nagasaki, are familiar territory for fiction, Lee prioritizes out-of-the-ordinary perspectives: her Korean characters are first the colonized, and then the outsiders trying to thrive in a foreign country despite segregation and persecution. I recommend Pachinko to readers of family sagas and anyone who wants to learn more about the Korean experience. My only caveat is that the book goes downhill in Pa ...more
First and foremost, "Pachinko" is an engrossing, wonderful novel - a saga that follows a family over decades and through immigration, misery and joy, and all that makes a human story richly fascinating. I did not want it to end.

This is another book which I hesitated over, after reading political analysis and commentary of the complicated history behind and within the story - the plight of Korea, the diaspora of its citizens who left due to outside countries' Empire building takeovers, their own
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one was just okay to me. I got some historical context around ethical discrimination in Japan against people originally from Korea, and women’s subservient status in Japanese/Korean society in the first half of the 20th century. Neither the plot nor the writing stood out. Most characters felt over-simplified, with only two primary dimensions: selfish or altruistic, conventional or rebellious. The fact that the two brothers with dramatically different personalityes, and without contact for m ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I picked this from Book of the Month last year, and then my in-person book club voted to read it in the 2017-18 season. Since we aren't reading it until June, I was going to wait, but then saw the author would be coming to my town on February 5, and I wanted to go see her read and get my book signed. Then it was included in the shortlist for the Tournament of Books, so basically I needed to read it. It also counts for the Reading Women challenge, as a book on their 2017 shortlist. This checks a ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This has been on my list since it first came out and it was no disappointment. This family saga begins with a poor but loving Korean family and follows them through the next three generations and to Japan. Although I was aware of the prejudice Japan had for Koreans, I really had no idea of the extent of it.

It is difficult to discuss the book without giving spoilers. Although long, I would definitely call this an easy read. There are no real challenges in the writing or concepts but the story is
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: best-of-2017, 2018, japan
I kicked off 2018 by reading some of the best of 2017. This was the last book of the project. Here are the selections; here's Digg's aggregate top ten list.

Pachinko is like gambling on pinball machines, so I don't know how that hasn't destroyed civilization yet, good lord.


Here's a cheesy browser game if you wanna get the general idea. You shoot the ball, it bangs around, things light up, you win or you don't.

So this makes an effective metaphor, if a pretty thudding and obvious one: "Life's going
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Min Jin Lee

PUBLISHER Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Audio
PUBLISHED February 7, 2017
NARRATED Allison Hiroto

Absorbing and thought-provoking, PACHINKO will remain in your memory for years to come.

Pachinko is an addicting Japanese vertical arcade game, a cross between pinball and a slot machine. It’s a game of chance and the house odds are high. There are only a few winners, but lots of losers.

PACHINKO, the book, follows one Korean family though four generations b
Matthew Quann
I picked up Min Jin Lee's Pachinko from Costco primarily because David Mitchell and Junot Diaz's effusive endorsements pop out on the paperback edition and drew me towards a book I might have otherwise overlooked. Luckily, this sprawling epic had me reading compulsively, even when the opening chapters took so long to reveal the book's direction.

I was really impressed by Lee's ability to shift so effortlessly between character and time over the course of this book. Though the story begins in 191
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. I would give it 4 stars because I did really like it (not there with all out love) but I had to bump it to 5 for the fact that I couldn't put it down. A completely absorbing book set in a time, place, and culture I am completely unfamiliar, and rather ignorant, with. Beautifully written, poignant, sad, and matter of fact at times in regards to life in Korea/Japan in the years preceding WW2 through 1989, Pachinko will leave you thoughtful and perhaps a bit haunted i ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feel like I’ve just read two separate books. I really enjoyed the first half, but not so much the second. The timespan this novel encompasses includes several generations of characters, however, I only really felt connected to the ones from the first part and I missed them in the second. Not crazy about the title & think a better one could’ve work better at representing the subject. I did love learning more about Korea and its resilient heritage. Overall, a good novel. 3.5 stars rounding up ...more
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Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko (Feb 2017) is a national bestseller, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Great Reads. Lee’s debut novel Free Food for Millionaires (May 2007) was a No. 1 Book Sense Pick, a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Wall Street Journal Juggle Book Club selection, and a national bestseller; it was a Top 10 Novels of the Year for The Ti ...more
“Living everyday in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage” 102 likes
“You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.” 84 likes
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